Ignoring the obvious. Risk management is inevitable if the project needs to run smoothly. If they are ignored, the organization may lose the direction of its objectives.

I recently watched a group of workmen take down a building safety barrier.

There were five workmen – two had hard hats on (risk management) but they stayed well away from the action (auditors?). The three workmen doing the work had no hard hats.

The safety barrier was about 8 feet tall. The smallest member of the team, about 5’ 6”, was trying to unscrew the barrier with an electric drill in reverse action mode.

To enable this activity there was a ladder – which was ignored.

Instead, the small team member tried to hang off the top of the barrier with one hand while trying to align the drill and screw heads with the other as he swung to and fro. Occasionally he was successful. Other times he gave up and asked the 6’ 6’ co-worker to do it for him (which he could do just standing on the ground!)

Later it struck me how typical of some projects this event was.

Risk management was largely ignored – although some were giving it token acknowledgment.

The tools provided (ladder) were ignored – β€œWe know a better way even when it is not working”

A lack of true teamwork. The people with the skills/knowledge (in this case height) saw that it was not their job to unscrew the top screws until it became the only way they were going to get the job done.

In Conclusion

This is was a form of lack of management. Those watching (with their hard hats on) made no move to change what was obviously an inefficient and dangerous activity.

The job was completed in much more time (and, therefore, cost) than necessary and at a higher risk than necessary, but would be claimed as a success as the barrier came down.

Now how many completed projects do you know that have these attributes???

Topics: Capability Development, Risk Management

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Mar 2010) as "Ignoring The Obvious"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections